Tribe members, conservationists and community organizers filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Oregon Department of Justice for what they claim to be an illegal domestic espionage operation.
In court documents filed with the Marion County Circuit Court, attorneys for four named plaintiffs say Oregon’s TITAN Fusion Center – a joint federal and state law enforcement operation intended to combat the terrorism and criminal activity – is “an opaque and ubiquitous domestic intelligence program that is authorized by no statute. They asked the court to find the center illegal and to prevent the Oregon Department of Justice from They also want a judge to force the state fusion center to destroy the intelligence it has collected.
In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, fusion centers have sprung up across the country as a mechanism for law enforcement to share information and thwart future attacks. Oregon’s TITAN (acronym for Terrorism Information Threat Assessment Network) Fusion Center is one of some 80 centers across the country.
“Over the past two decades, however, many agencies that administer fusion centers have broadened the intelligence priorities of these national clearinghouses well beyond terrorist threats, instead adopting an ‘all-embracing’ approach. crimes / all risks “,” says the trial. “This change essentially wipes out any activity deemed suspicious within the jurisdiction of a fusion center.”
The lawsuit says TITAN analysts are monitoring individuals engaged in peaceful protests. He cited articles published by The Guardian in 2019 that showed the Oregon Fusion Center was playing a role in monitoring protesters opposing the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas project in Coos County.
Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, a member of the Klamath tribes and named plaintiff in the lawsuit, strongly opposed the Jordan Cove LNG project.
“We all knew we were being watched,” she said in Portland on Tuesday. “Now that I learn of the level of unhindered surveillance we were subjected to by this TITAN fusion center. I’m terrified of everyone… Who else do they see as a threat? “
Kristina Edmunson, spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Justice, said lawyers for the agency were reviewing the lawsuit. She added that the case cites examples from years ago that she said have been dealt with.
“For example, the lawsuit refers to a Guardian news article expressing concerns that law enforcement officials were monitoring protests over the Jordan Cove Project,” Edmunson said in a statement. “When we learned of the concerns, we immediately followed up and shortly thereafter put the Fusion Center employee on administrative leave. After an internal investigation, we issued a notice of dismissal to the employee and he chose to resign.
Edmunson said federal law only allows fusion center analysts to share information when there is “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity. She added that the Oregon Department of Justice briefs lawmakers every two years in a session on the centre’s activities.
Farhang Heydari, executive director of the New York University Law School Policing Project, is one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs suing the Oregon Department of Justice. He said the agency and the fusion center operate beyond their legal authority because there is no statute that allows surveillance.
“TITAN describes itself as pursuing not only all crimes, but all threats – and TITAN is the one who decides who and what is a threat,” Heydari said Tuesday. “There is no law authorizing the Department of Justice to conduct a massive data collection operation that pursues all crimes and threats. There is certainly no law that allows this operation to take place in secret, without transparency and without accountability. “